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Braves leaning toward 7-man bullpen

MLB.com @mlbbowman

ATLANTA -- After removing left-handed reliever Kevin Chapman from the Opening Day roster, the Braves revealed that they are now leaning toward beginning the season with a seven-man bullpen. This would allow them to extend their options for what currently projects to be an offensively limited bench.

Chapman was a candidate for one of the final bullpen spots before he was outrighted to Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday, after clearing waivers. If the Braves opt to go with the seven-man bullpen, the final spot will likely go to one of two right-handers -- either the newly acquired David Hernandez, or Chaz Roe, who is out of options.

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ATLANTA -- After removing left-handed reliever Kevin Chapman from the Opening Day roster, the Braves revealed that they are now leaning toward beginning the season with a seven-man bullpen. This would allow them to extend their options for what currently projects to be an offensively limited bench.

Chapman was a candidate for one of the final bullpen spots before he was outrighted to Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday, after clearing waivers. If the Braves opt to go with the seven-man bullpen, the final spot will likely go to one of two right-handers -- either the newly acquired David Hernandez, or Chaz Roe, who is out of options.

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This doesn't mean the Braves have completely ditched the idea of using an eight-man bullpen, but with three off-days within the first 11 days of the regular season, they recognize that it might be more valuable to carry an additional position player through this stretch.

"Probably right now, we're leaning toward [a seven-man bullpen]," manager Brian Snitker said. "With the off-days, we felt maybe that would be better. That could change. There will be guys on waivers and potential trades and things like that. But right now it looks like we're just going to go with seven."

If that's the case, the Braves could at least add another pinch-hitting option to what would be a five-man bench. The first four spots are expected to go to Jace Peterson, Chase d'Arnaud, Emilio Bonifacio and backup catcher Kurt Suzuki.

There is a chance the Braves could find an external option to fill the fifth bench spot, but the trade options haven't been attractive, and Atlanta does not seem too interested in the current crop of free agents.

If the Braves fill that final bench spot internally, they might go with a third catcher, at least to open the season. That would free their primary catchers -- Tyler Flowers and Suzuki -- to serve as a pinch-hitter in some late-inning situations. If they go this route, there is a chance they could recall Anthony Recker, who was optioned to Gwinnett during Spring Training.

Although third baseman Rio Ruiz could be considered a bench candidate, the Braves would seemingly rather enrich his development by giving him an everyday role with Gwinnett. But if it's viewed as a short-term situation, Ruiz could break with the big league club. His candidacy is aided by the fact he is already on the 40-man roster.

When Paco Rodriguez was released this week, Chapman stood as the favorite if the Braves opted to open the season with three left-handed relievers. But for now it appears Eric O'Flaherty and Ian Krol will be the only left-handed relief options on the Opening Day roster.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves